What is Backbone Radio?

Backbone Radio is Internet radio simplified.  Backbone Radio is the easiest, most streamlined way to create and operate a professional sounding Internet radio station.  It is an integrated Internet radio streaming service that turns your Macintosh into a broadcast and automation studio.  An intuitive pair of Apple Mac apps serve as your control dashboard, in conjunction with the powerful cloud-based Backbone Radio service that manages listener connections to your station.

Backbone Radio makes it easy to organize, schedule and broadcast (stream) all types of live and recorded audio directly onto the Internet. Backbone Radio is aimed at helping new and established radio broadcasters economically manage their entry into Internet Radio, with intuitive, easy to use “jock-friendly” tools that extend the professional broadcast environment to internet broadcasting.

What does the product consist of?

The Backbone Radio service consists of two components: first, a pair of Macintosh-based “studio” applications for live broadcasting and production scheduling, called OnAirStudio and OnAirDisplay, and a cloud based streaming server hosted and managed by Backbone.

The cloud based service is the Internet radio broadcast streaming server that performs 24×7 automation of playlists, scheduling playlists, takes listener connections, and tracks program logs, listener usage and other administrative information.

The Macintosh based OnAirStudio application is used to create playlists, schedules and to manage the content of your internet radio station.

The Macintosh based OnAirDisplay is the DJ interface where you manually command automated playlists. It is your console for live broadcasts.

For more information on how these applications run please read our online documentation.

How does Backbone Radio compare to other streaming offerings?

Most other Internet radio applications focus on only one of the components of professional broadcasting, either the automation of the playlist or the transmission of the stream. Backbone Radio is an integrated professional broadcast and automation service for internet radio stations. As such it compares to traditional, terrestrial professional broadcast automation systems.

This integration gives you full control. You generate your own playlists, either manually or automatically from a database of stored audio clips and go LIVE at any time by clicking an on screen button. Backbone Radio is the only internet radio application that allows you to keep complete control of your content. An additional difference is the full logging and record keeping of your audience. Not just statistical, but hard logged data that tells you who listened to what, when and for how long. This vital task means lower operating costs in running your station and more accurate reporting of your royalty and advertising requirements.

I downloaded the Backbone Radio demo but it will not run.

For Backbone Radio to operate make sure it satisfies the system requirements.  These are an Intel based Macintosh with 1GB of memory running OS X 10.6 or later and Quicktime 7.0 or later.

Follow the installation and configuration instructions on the disk or watch our YouTube videos.

If you are still having trouble please contact us at support@backbone.com and we will set up an online training session where we will set up and configure your system.

Why the MPEG-4 format?

Backbone Radio uses MPEG-4 as its primary streaming format. The new worldwide standard delivers dramatically higher audio quality coupled with significantly faster compression speed. Backbone Radio builds upon Apple’s QuickTime which provides MPEG-4 compatibility. Defined by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), MPEG-4 is the new worldwide standard for next-generation multimedia, including streaming for audio and video. With the free QuickTime Player, browser plug-in, or iTunes listeners can listen to any MPEG-4 compliant streams, including Backbone Radio streams. MPEG-4 also enables listeners to view text annotation information describing currently playing clips, auto-generated HTML-based program schedules and JPEG images that may be provided as part of your webcast.

Which version of Backbone Radio is right for me?

That really depends upon how many listeners you expect to have, the length of time they will listen and the amount of content you would like to store in the automation system for broadcasting.  Our entry level package includes everything you need to broadcast up to 15,000 listener hours and 10 days of programming archive.

As you grow your listenership and archival requirements we are there to grow with you with the ability to scale to thousands of simultaneous listeners and additional days of archival.

Can I upgrade to the next version when the time is right?

Yes.  As a standard part of our service your station can upgrade to all new versions of OnAirStudio and OnAirDisplay as they become available.  This helps to future proof your station and broadcast efforts as we are continually updating and improving your broadcast capabilities.

Can both Windows and Macintosh PC users listen to me? Are the players free?

There are many ways for people to listen to your station.  They can listener to your stations through a web-browser and the embedded player we provide you as a standard part of your system.

Additionally, once you have sufficient content to broadcast Backbone sponsors your station for inclusion in iTunes and  TuneIn tuners.  These tuners enable your listeners to hear your radio station on well over 100 different devices including the iPhone and Android devices with more device being added all the time.  That means virtually everyone can listen to your station.

Another additional way for your listeners to hear your programming is on a time-shifted basis through dar.fm.  A great service that operates as a digital audio recorder for your station.

What equipment do I need to start a station?

Along with your Internet connection all you need is a Mac and a Mic.  An Intel based Apple Macintosh computer serves as your OnAirStudio and OnAirDisplay console to operate and control your online radio broadcasts.

Backbone’s cloud based automation system handles all the backend IT functions required to operate your station.  Our servers easily scale to thousands of simultaneous connections, log them, manages your playlists, generates reports and is there for you whenever you need it.

Why do I need a Macintosh, and what do they cost?

Backbone Radio client software operates only on Apple Macintosh computers. Apple’s OS X with iTunes and QuickTime was the first to adopt the powerful advanced feature of the MPEG-4 audio standard such as interleaving live and recorded content. It is upon these technologies we built the Backbone Radio client software.

Backbone Radio running on an Apple Macintosh is really price competitive with hardware based radio automation systems such as those from Broadcast Electronics, Enco, RCS and others. A standard configuration 27-inch Intel based Macintosh provides you with all the screen real estate to run your station for less the $2,000. If you are looking to do live remotes, Apple’s PowerBooks are excellent for running Backbone Radio software starting at $1,200.

You do not need to worry about running a server to take connections, logging and reporting we do that for you.  Our service is always available for your programming and broadcast needs.  All you need is a Mac and a Mic to go along with your Internet connection and you are ready to go.

Besides streaming (like a transmitter) what does the backboneServer do?

The backboneServer is the repository for all your music clips, text annotation and images. After building your playlist your station can be run automatically using standard rotation rules. The backboneServer, as your transmitter, also stores all the administrative information about your station such as audience size, when they were listening, the location from where they were listening and other critical information for your advertisers, underwriters and others who want to track the progress of your audience. Further, it provides the reports for you to file to the streaming authorities such as SoundExchange, BMI, ASCAP and Sesac.

Can Backbone Networks host my station?

Yes. That is what we do.  We take care of the technical part of broadcasting, enabling live remotes, radio automation, setting up the servers, managing connections and logging.  You can focus on your content while we handle the IT backend of your online radio broadcast efforts.

What should I expect to pay for hosting? And how do I make a profit?

Our hosting plan pricing are based upon listener hours and programming archive.  Our most basic package is $300/month and includes 15,000 listener hours and 10 days of programming archive.  As your listenership grows you would upgrade your package.

About generating revenue, many non-commercial stations would look for underwriters.  Commercial stations often sell spots.  You are provided a web-site as part of your Backbone service.  This is a place where you can place banner ads for sponsors, underwriters and advertisers.  You have the freedom to structure your operations as you like.

How easy is it to set up the station?

Backbone Radio is provided as Software as a Service (SaaS).  We have simplified Internet radio production for the professional broadcaster.  We take care of the technical part of broadcasting, enabling live remotes, radio automation, setting up the servers, managing connections and logging.  You can focus on your content.

When you sign up for our service you are provided with two applications to run on your Macintosh(es) that control your station.  It is really easy to set up and run as you can see in these videos about how to install, configure and run your station.

What is the interface?

The Backbone Radio interface is through two Macintosh based applications, OnAirDisplay and OnAirStudio.  These two applications control the backboneServer from anywhere there is a network connection with an upstream connection of at least 128Kbps. These two applications allow the station operator to quickly create playlists of content encoded for streaming over the Internet through a simple drag and drop interface.

How do I manipulate the playlist?

The playlist is manipulated through the Backbone Radio OnAirDisplay application. The Macintosh based OnAirStudio application allows the station operator to create compressed clips to a playlist from source material, add pre compressed clips, change the play order of clips in a playlist, start playlists with new content, talk live, and many other useful functions, all with a simple drag and drop interface.

Can I mix formats and rates in the same playlist?

Yes. The backboneServer automatically streams content compressed in different formats or different data rates without any restrictions. This means that playlists can be made up of mp3s, mp4s, and other content formats, and the listener will just hear the content play seamlessly.

How do I make a schedule?

Schedules are made by adding playlists in the OnAirStudio application. This can be done either as a playlist is created, or after. The OnAirStudio application automatically sequences playlists according to their start time, and repeats that schedule until it is changed by the station operator.

Can I change the current playlist while on the air??

Yes. The order of tracks can be changed by simply dragging and dropping while the playlist is on the air. New tracks can be added to a playlist, or tracks can be deleted in a similar manner. To keep the changed order of the playlist, save it. Otherwise, the playlist will revert to its original order when it starts the next time.

Once populated with new material, another playlist can be started at any time by pressing the play button on the interface. It can be set to take over from the current playlist when the current track stops, or the current playlist can be interrupted, and the new playlist put on air immediately.

Can I have more than one control computer doing different tasks?

Yes. The backboneServer supports up to 20 control stations.

  • The OnAirDisplay client controls all functions, including live broadcasting. Note, only one computer can be in ‘On Air’ mode at a time.
  • The OnAirStudio is controls all functions except live broadcasting.  This application can be run on multiple machines programming the automation system and uploading clips on as many Macintosh systems as you need.

How can I go live right now?

From within the OnAirDisplay application, simply press the “Live” button. This switches the station into live mode without waiting for the current item to stop playing.

What if I lose electrical power during a show?

If your Macintosh running OnAirStudio or OnAirDisplay to program your station take an electrical hit your station will automatically switch into automated programming mode and will continue uninterrupted.  In the rare case where the power is interrupted on the backboneServer, on restart the Server will automatically restart and continue programming from where it was scheduled. The OnAirDisplay client is only required to run if you want to change the programming of your station or talk live.

Can I do a live remote with commercial inserts?

Yes. This feature is one of the major differences between our solution and other solutions available on the market. A live remote with commercial inserts is done in the following way:

  • Using the OnAirStudio application create a playlist containing the desired commercial spots.  Either insert fixed live segments using OnAirStudio, or manually switch in and out of live mode from your live remote site using the OnAirDisplay client on your Macintosh. The backboneServer automatically schedules and executes the switch between live and recorded content.

Can I use my iTunes library to quickly build a database of content?

Yes. Backbone Radio pre-compressed mp3 or mp4 files created with iTunes and stored in your iTunes Library can be dragged and dropped into an OnAirStudio playlist. The OnAirStudio application will query the iTunes Store using the mp3 and mp4 tags to fetch album art, additional clip information and associated links to that clip in the iTunes Store for click-through purchase.

Can I change the annotation listeners see after a song is loaded?

Yes. By double clicking on a playlist item in the OnAirStudio or OnAirDisplay application the annotation and embedded URL can be changed after the item has been created. The annotation change is automatically saved to the media file for that item in the rotational database on the server.

How do I stream images with the radio broadcast?

Images, such as Station Logos, Program Images, Album Covers or head shots, are streamed using a web based facility included with the Backbone Radio Service. These images are accessed by embedding a link to a particular web location (e.g., a .jpeg image) on the backboneServer into a web page. This link is updated on the fly with the image or images appropriate for each audio clip. Also, images can be sequenced to appear at specific times during the clip through the OnAirStudio application.

How can I automatically generate a rules compliant playlist?

A rules compliant playlist is created from any playlist window by inserting rotation or template items into the playlist. This may be done by clicking the ROTATION button, which permits you to select the additional item as music, commercial or station ID item. The backboneServer automatically chooses an appropriate item conforming to the pre-selected rules and inserts it into the selected location in the playlist. Each time the playlist is generated, a new set of items take the place of these rotation items. When the playlist goes live to air, it will be automatically updated to comply with broadcast rules based on what has been broadcast previously. Existing playlist items can be converted into rotation items by checking the rotation check box to the left of that item on the playlist.

If I change my playlist will the rules compliance go away?

No. Playlists which contain template items will automatically be updated to comply with broadcast rules when the playlist goes to air. This means that your playlists will adapt to broadcast changes without having to regenerate your entire schedule.The default rule set provided is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Sound Recording Performance Complement.

For more information on the RIAA Sound Recording Performance Complement see:http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/114

Does Backbone Radio include automatic logging, and what information is logged?

Backbone Radio includes automatic logging for content played out of the automation system.

What if the CARP/DMCA logging/record keeping requirements change?

Backbone Radio is based on a relational database. The stored data on listeners, programming and media content can be analyzed and formatted in new and different ways as required. Thus, any special or changed requirements for reporting can be met by generating a new query to the database.

Can Backbone Radio Standard be used to automate regular (AM/FM) radio broadcasts?

Yes, you can use Backbone Radio to automate a conventional radio station, such as a low power FM station. You would set the OnAirStudio application to compress your source material at 128Kbps MPEG-4 lossless audio in order to get a true highest fidelity stream from your client to your Transmitter. You would connect your FM transmitter to the audio-out connection on your Macintosh and then play audio directly out of the Macintosh into your FM transmitter.

How can I automatically publish my current playlist on my web site?

This is a feature of Backbone Radio. Backbone Radio allows you to record live content as you are broadcasting, saving you from having to use additional offline audio programs.

In the OnAirStudio application Click the Record Live button. When you finish the program and go out of Live a new playlist with that item compressed will appear. You can rename the recorded clip and enter other information and meta-data about the clip in the playlist item dialog box. Then you can save it to the server, where it will be hinted for streaming and stored for future use in the automation system on the server.

Can my listeners download and save music?

The beauty of QuickTime as a platform, besides its incredible clarity, is that the QuickTime player does not permit the saving of streaming songs or other streaming audio. This protects artists’ content and allows you to remain in compliance with the United States streaming laws. However, if your listener is interested in a particular song and your clips have URLs to the iTunes Store they can click through to purchase the song or other audio for immediate download.

Some tuners and players that support our streams do enable limited recording for personal use and time-shifting of content.  These are fair use exceptions to the copyright law under which they are operating.  See the acceptable use license of those particular tuners for more specifics.

How do I create clickable URLs for songs? For live?

Along with visual text information regarding the show, program, artist, song, album and copyright information, you can send one or more displayed images, such as the album cover or artist’s head shot. Both the text and image include a clickable URL that will take the listener to a web page of that artist, his e-commerce site, or wherever you would like the listener sent.

There is an available option to auto-generate iTunes Album Art as part of the ingest process.  If the track is available in iTunes the URL and Album Art will be used.  The radio program keeps playing while the listener makes this journey.  You fill in the URL field in the playlist item dialog when loading the songs or items into the server. When in live mode, the annotation and associated URL revert to the station information initially set up in the Station preference dialog.

Now that there are many ways to listen to Internet radio the URL you place into your stream is not always available.  For example, if you listen to the station through an AppleTV that link is not available